Simmering Heat need wins as they face Mavericks
The Miami Heat, who play host to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night, are reeling from a tough loss.
On Tuesday, the Orlando Magic beat the Heat 104-99, passing Miami by a half-game in the race for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
"You're going to feel great joy when you win," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, "and great pain when you lose."
Tuesday's loss was indeed painful for the Heat, who blew a 17-point lead and lost at home, where they are just 17-21 this season.
Miami (36-38) has eight games left -- just three of them at home, including the contest against Dallas.
"We're still in the fight," said Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who on Tuesday became the 30th player in NBA history to surpass 23,000 career points. "We still have a chance."
The Mavericks, who are the second-worst team in the Western Conference and playing only for pride at this point, can imperil Miami's playoff chance with a win on Tuesday.
Dallas is just 7-30 on the road this season, and only the Cleveland Cavaliers (6-30) have won fewer games away from home in 2018-2019. But the Mavs are building for the future, drafting rookie sensation Luka Doncic in June and trading for ex-New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis in January.
On Tuesday, the Mavs lost to the Sacramento Kings 125-121, but Doncic produced his seventh triple-double of the season with 28 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.
Doncic, a 6-7, 220-pound shooting guard from Slovenia and the third overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, is just 20 years old. No player younger than 21 has ever produced more than seven triple-doubles in an NBA season. Hall of Famer Magic Johnson also had seven triple-doubles his rookie year.
Overall this season, Doncic leads Dallas in scoring (21.1), rebounds (7.6), assists (5.9) and steals (1.1).
He is certainly carrying a Mavericks team that has two would-be starters out for the season due to injuries: Tim Hardaway Jr. (leg) and Kristaps Porzingis (knee). Backup point guard J.J. Barea (leg) is also out for the season.
"Oh my God -- it's the hardest thing for me to go through shootarounds with the team and then have to pick a suit to wear for the game," said Porzingis, who has not played this season as he recovers from left knee surgery after he was injured on Feb. 6, 2018. "It's the toughest thing for me. I don't want to (sit out) anymore."
Once he returns next season, Porzingis envisions pick-and-roll plays with him and Doncic being "hard to guard" for Mavs opponents.
But that's next season. On Thursday, the Heat -- in a game they desperately need to win -- will focus on slowing down Doncic, who is the frontrunner to win NBA Rookie of the Year honors.
Dallas' four other starters on Tuesday -- Dirk Nowitzki, Jalen Brunson, Dwight Powell and Justin Jackson -- combined to score just 47 points. In addition, all five Mavs starters were on the negative side of their plus-minus for a total of negative-36.
In other words, the Mavs have a long way to go to be competitive, and that reflects in their overall record of 29-45.
The Mavericks, of course, have history against the Heat, meeting them in two NBA Finals. Miami beat Dallas for the title in 2006, and Dallas turned the tables in 2011.
Porzingis believes Dallas can get back there ... someday.
"My ultimate goal is to win a championship," he said. "I need more time, honestly, but I believe this can be the place."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 27, 2019